Bukit Lawang : Surfing the Sumatran Orangutan

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Lost in the depths of the Sumatran jungle is this sweet little tourist town built around the popularity of its orangutan-viewing centre. But Bukit Lawang has much more to offer beyond our red-haired cousins. It’s very easy to while away a few days lounging in the many riverside hammocks, splashing about in the gushing river and watching the jungle life swing and sing around you. The forests surrounding Bukit Lawang are part of the vast Gunung Leuser National Park, which is one of the richest tropical-forest ecosystems in the word. The park as a whole is home to eight species of primate plus tigers, rhinos, elephants and leopards. However, aside from orangutans and various other primates, you are very unlikely to see any other large mammals here (or elsewhere in the park for that matter). The forests immediately surrounding Bukit Lawang are absolutely not pristine jungle – palm-oil plantations extend right up to the edge of the village and at weekends, when foreign tourists are joined by domestic visitors.

Discover the Sumatran jungle on an outdoor adventure with orangutans to keep you company at the jungle village of Bukit Lawang. Literally meaning “door to the hills”, Bukit Lawang is a small village situated at the south of the Mount Leuseur National Park. It’s located about 90 kilometers northwest of Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra.

Bukit Lawang is a gateway to the legendary Sumatran jungle with its steep slippery terrain and muddy slopes, exploring the jungle here is a true adventure. Trek through the breathtakingly thick jungle and be transported into to new world.


It is the gentle giants of the jungle, the orangutans, which are the main attraction here. Bukit Lawang is one of the best places in the world to meet this rare and endangered primate. See these graceful creatures swing through the forest canopy as they forage for fruit. This is one of the largest stronghold communities of orangutans, with more than 5000 of them living in the here.

The Orangutan rehabilitation center is where young orphaned orangutans are trained to live in the wild. The center has been operating since 1973 and today attracts visitors from around the world who come here to catch a glimpse of these amazing orphaned creatures.

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The number of orangutans in the jungle has decreased as a result of hunting, animal trading and a damaged environment. The rehabilitation center helps orangutans regain their natural habits by putting them through intensive training before their release back to the wild. Once a primate heads back the jungle, the rehabilitation center keeps providing it with food supplements and regular check-ups.

Overnight trekking is a favorite among visitors. Most people choose a two-day trek to increase the chance of seeing orangutans and other wildlife in their natural habitat. It is dangerous for travelers to head off alone in the jungle so every trek should be guided by a professional. Make sure you inform the guide if you are especially interested in seeing a specific plant or animal. Make sure you also ask your guide to visit the bat cave. Remember to leave early in the morning because you won’t want to miss a moment of your jungle experience.

If overnight is too much you can arrange a guide to take you on a trek for a few hours. There are also a number of short walks around Bukit Lawang that don’t require a guide or permit.

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Take a wild ride down the rapids of Sungai Bohorok using a rubber tube. This should be done only under the supervision of a professional guide as the rapids here can be extremely strong.

Get up close and feed the orangutans. There are two feeding times: at 08.30 am and 3.00 pm; at these times you can feed them milk, bananas and other food supplements supplied by the rehabilitation center. All the activities within the Mount Leuser National Park should be done under the permission and guidance by the staff of the rehabilitation center.

If you’re up for a challenge, try hiking to the peak of Mount Leuseur (3,404 meters). This epic trek takes about 10-14 days. The small village of Angasan is a suitable starting point. The first five days will be spent trekking through virgin rain forest where rare primates can often be seen. You need to be physically fit and accompanied by a guide.


Bukit Lawang is a small village situated 90 kilometers northwest of Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra, Indonesia.

About Sumatran Orangutan:

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The Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii) is the rarer of the two species of orangutans. Living and endemic to Sumatra island of Indonesia, they are smaller than the Bornean Orangutan. The Sumatran Orangutan grows to about 4.6 feet tall and 200 pounds in males. Females are smaller, averaging 3ft and 100 pounds. Compared to the Bornean Orangutan, the Sumatran Orangutans possess a lighter and longer pelage, a longer face, a smaller stature, and flanges that are covered in small white hairs.

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2 thoughts on “Bukit Lawang : Surfing the Sumatran Orangutan

  1. Helena Martins dos Santos

    Hi People . My name is Helena, and I am 7 years old. I love the orangutan ‘s photos. I live in Brazil. My uncle is living in Indonesia, and share me the pictures. It’s so nice!!!

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